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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MONTANA PHOTOGRAPHER – SPRING IN THE BEARTOOTH MOUNTAINS

We’ve had a lovely cool and rainy streak this mid-May and it’s created some beautiful conditions in the mountains. Snow is possible pretty much all year around in the Beartooth Mountains, especially at higher elevations, so I wasn’t surprised to see a light dusting of snow and frost on the foothills of the Beartooths outside of Red Lodge Montana.  It made for a magical scene with cold and foggy conditions in the mountains, obscured by clouds, while the lower meadows are a lush green, complete with grazing cattle.  Montana is sure beautiful!  We can’t get enough of it!

Tips for photographers: This photo was made next to Highway 78 North of Red Lodge with a 135mm lens on a full frame Sony A7ii body. Montana makes for easy pickings sometimes, you just have to pull over and that’s about it. I prefer a longer lens for my “side of the road” landscape photography because it allows you to isolate a more narrow scene and eliminate distracting foreground elements that you otherwise can’t control because you’re stuck on the road and can’t hike up closer to search for the perfect foreground.  So I tend to compress the foreground with a longer lens, either my 135mm or 70-200mm.  The 135mm is lighter and smaller so it’s almost always in my bag.

I am Billings Montana wedding and portrait photographer Paul Bellinger.  Please visit www.paulbellinger.com for wedding and portrait bookings.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER – KAYLEE, MONTANA BADASS

Kaylee is one of the coolest and most confident people I’ve met since moving to Montana. She’s from Roy Montana but that hasn’t hampered her fashion sense or her taste in rap music (like me), which is something of a rarity in Montana. She’s a natural and a knockout in front of the camera, so we had a blast in the studio jamming to our favorite rap tunes. Roy Montana must be a special place because everyone I’ve met from Roy is awesome.  Thanks for rocking your shoot Kaylee! You are so badass!  Stay tuned for more from this shoot soon.

Tips for photographers: This was a fantastic shoot. Kaylee brought a confident, badass energy that was refreshing. From picking her clothes, to posing, she’s on point. It was inspiring for me, so the shoot went great. The first photo is lit with a single bare strobe with a 7-inch reflector. This light is about 12 feet a way so it lights up everything evenly with little falloff.  It’s a very hard light from such a small light source placed so far away, so the shadows are very sharp, as you can see under her nose and on the wall behind her. The light was directly in front of Kaylee but I moved to her right to create the angle, which you can judge by the shadows.  I normally use this lighting technique on my white wall and it lights the white very nice and evenly. This was my first time using this setup on my black wall and I like it.

I am dedicated to raising the bar for portrait photography in Billings Montana. I’m working hard in the studio, constantly refining my techniques so that my team and I can always create modern, stylish portraits that make a timeless impact.  Visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com to schedule a portrait sitting.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER – ARTIST TROY EVANS

One of the perks of being an artist is hanging out with other artists. I was lucky to meet artists Troy and Coila Evans not long after moving to Billings at an Art Walk event. I went to a show featuring the work of two local photographers, and Troy’s work was there also. My wife immediately loved his work, and meanwhile I noticed Troy was the only person in the room with a beer. So I inquired about the beer and he offered me one out of his personal stash. We’ve been friends ever since! But I’m also a big fan of Troy’s work (my wife has great taste) and it is an honor to photograph it from time to time. Here are two of my favorite pieces that I photographed from Troy’s recent solo show at Catherine Louisa Gallery. The portrait of Troy was taken after the Art Walk a week after his opening. Several photographers and a few other artists were having a little after party at my studio and of course we couldn’t help but turn on the strobes and have some fun.  See and purchase Troy’s work here: http://blockhorsedesigns.com

Tips for photographers: This portrait is something that happened on the spur of the moment but was about a month in the making.  A month before this portrait happened, my friend and mentor Ken Jarecke turned me on to the portrait work of Marco Grob.  I was impressed with Grob and studied his work for weeks, trying to decipher his lighting techniques.  I watched as much BTS material as I could find, and enlisted the help of my good friend and lighting expert Zak Jokela.  When it was time for the Art Walk to come around I knew there was a good chance we’d have a crowd of notable subjects in the studio afterwards for a night cap.  So right at the start of Art Walk I met Zak at the studio and set up the basics of the lighting and tested a few shots.  We didn’t want to miss the parties, so we left in a hurry, hoping we might have subjects later.  Our plan paid off, and after an evening of wining and dining in art galleries, we had a late night crew assembled in the studio.  Zak and I tinkered with a few other photographers posing for us and quickly honed in the lighting technique we wanted to run with.  After that we just played around all night while everyone was having a good time.  I am so thankful to have friends like Zak, Troy, and others that love to experiment and push each other to new heights.  Meeting and hanging with these other artists is one of the highlights of my life as a photographer.

This portrait is lit with one light, a large 4 foot silver bounce umbrella camera right for a dramatic side lighting effect. See the catchlight in the eye and shadow under the nose for an idea of the angle and placement. The highlight on Troy’s right side was created by a large 8 foot silver reflector behind and camera left from Troy.  Further shadows were introduced by Zak holding a flag (anything that blocks the light, also known as a gobo, or “go between”) close to the left side of Troy’s face so that his ear and shadow are shaded from the main light. This flag is the key touch that we learned from Marco Grob and it has opened my eyes to new world of flagging for dramatic effect.  Thanks to Zak for helping me figure it out!

I love portrait photography and have a passion for portraiture that you won’t find anywhere else in Billings Montana.  Please visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com for booking.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

MONTANA WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – MOUNTAIN WEDDING LOVE!

It’s heating up around here and that means we’re gearing up to head for the mountains this spring and summer.  Reports are coming in that roads are opening up, giving us easy access to beautiful mountains for spring engagement sessions.  I can’t wait to get up to East and West Rosebud to see what the winter has left behind for us.  This photo is from Melissa and Jeremey’s beautiful wedding at Emerald Lake, West Rosebud that was featured in Montana Bride Magazine.  I can’t get enough of this area of the Beartooth mountains and will scout the area several times to prepare for a season of shooting up there.  I am so grateful to be able to call this beautiful land my home and spend the summer documenting mountain love stories!

I am Montana wedding photographer Paul Bellinger and I photograph mountain weddings and destination weddings of all shapes and sizes, from the mountains to the beaches.  I specialize in dramatic, fine art wedding photography that is worthy of being called your first family heirloom.  I am located in Billings Montana and available for any wedding destination.  It would be my honor to photograph your wedding.  www.paulbellinger.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER – GROUP HEADSHOTS

I’m excited to offer a modern approach to corporate headshots and business portraits that looks amazing and is very convenient for businesses to upgrade the entire team, including the group photo.  The Rocky Mountain College Enactus team wanted professional portraits and headshots for each member, and a group photo go along with it.  But as any business knows, assembling the whole team in one place is inconvenient and time consuming.  So I took a modern approach and made portraits of each individual conveniently scheduled at their own time and later combined the individual portraits into a group photo. Our theme was based on the Netflix original show “House of Cards,” to make the group look serious, professional, and powerful.  Each team member was posed with the group photo in mind so that we could execute the theme and make a realistic group portrait.  The result is very striking, and very unique for Billings Montana.  Thank you to the RMC Enactus team for thinking outside of the box and entrusting me with your professional portraits.

There are several benefits for businesses that choose to go with this modern approach to their corporate headshots and professional portraits that also produces an outstanding group photo.  First, the photo simply looks better than your typical group photo, as each person is lit perfectly and posed privately without distractions from other group members.  We can even execute a theme, shooting specifically with a group pose in mind (in this case the theme was based on the Netflix original show “House of Cards,” to make the group look powerful). Second, the entire team will have consistent looking portraits, conveying the highest level of professionalism for your business. Third, it’s much faster, as every person in the group doesn’t have to pose perfectly at the exact same time, which requires many takes to get right when everyone is in the same room.  Fourth, it’s very easy to update, if more people are added to the team you don’t have to get everyone together all over again and you can kill two birds with one stone by having the new team members upgrade their individual headshots while also updating the group photo.  If people leave the team it’s easy to remove them from the group photo too.  For more info visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com.

Tips for photographers:

I’ve posted a behind the scenes photo of the lighting setup for this photo on Instagram @PJBellinger and I discussed other lightingtechniques here.  I learned a lot during this shoot, but I feel like the compositing was pretty straightforward.  It’s never going to be easy, but if you know what you’re going for in the final image you can shoot it accordingly.  I knew I wanted a black background, so shooting on black made it easy to blend each individual portrait together and into the background.  Keeping it dark and shadowy also made it easier to hide the sloppiness of my mask edges, which meant I could do the masking quickly.  If the business wanted to be able to put them on any colored background I would need more precise masks and it would be easier with a white or gray background where there is more separation between subject and background. But make sure to get your exposures right, because separating blown highlights from a white background is impossible guesswork. In that sense there is no substitute for good photography in the first place.  This isn’t a perfect execution, as of course the posing could always be better and I was backed into a corner on which poses would work with the overall photo and the theme, even if I felt there were stronger poses for the individual.  But I am happy with the execution of the concept from start to finish.

Monday, April 27, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PHOTOGRAPHER – BILLINGS FOR BILLINGS’ SAKE

I love Billings Montana. No it’s not my hometown, which will always be Omaha Nebraska, but Billings is my home now, and I couldn’t be more grateful to live in this beautiful place.  Billings doesn’t get enough credit.  It’s often overlooked as merely a place to fly into, or gear up before heading off to Western Montana where all of the mountains and beautiful national parks and forests are located. Even the city slogan “Montana’s Trailhead” implies that Billings is just a convenient starting point and not the final destination.  Granted, few places on earth can stand out from the long shadows cast by Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, and being relatively close to those places is what attracted my wife and I to Billings in the first place. But Billings is it’s own place, and has it’s own charm that goes beyond it’s proximity to beautiful places. 

Billings the biggest city in Montana and it’s the only city in Montana that really feels like a city and not a college town or resort community. It actually has a city culture, complete with all the hustle and bustle that Montana can offer. It has a real downtown, where business goes down, and not just shopping like some of the more touristy downtowns of Montana. It’s a beer town.  Downtown Billings has 6 micro-breweries and two distilleries, with more popping up across the city.  There is a great food culture to go with all of our beer too, with everything from artisan fine dining, to street food, and a massive seasonal farmer’s market.  There are several ethnic restaurants, including Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Thai and Montana’s only Indian restaurant.

Beyond food and commerce, the natural geography of Billings is quite pretty too.  In this photo you can see downtown Billings and the Yellowstone river valley behind it, followed by the Pryor Mountains even further in the distance.  To the West we have a view of the Beartooth Mountains, while the North and East are encircled by the cliffs of the Billings Rims.  The weather is mild, sitting in a bowl that borders on arid prairie and badlands to the East and the Rocky Mountains on the West, we’re sheltered from the extremes.  For all of these reasons and more, it’s no wonder that the population of Billings is growing fast, attracting over twice as many newcomers per year than any other city in Montana.  I was sold on Billings right away just because of the proximity to the Beartooth Mountains, Yellowstone, Glacier, and all of the mountain wilderness of the West.  But the city of Billings has grown on me too and I don’t think there’s any other place I’d rather live in Montana.  www.paulbellinger.com

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MONTANA WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – #TBT MAUI ENGAGEMENT SESSION

This is one of my favorite photos of Kalli and Bridger engulfed by the lush colors of Maui, Hawaii.  I love the eye contact and expression from Kalli, she looks like the goddess of the garden!  Maui is filled with flowers and romance, so these two madly in love amidst the flowers just sums up Maui perfectly for me.  Of course Maui is also all about beaches, seafood and cold beverages, but that’s too much for one photo!  Thank you Kalli and Bridger for an amazing time in Maui, and I can’t wait for the wedding in June!  See more from our trip to Maui here.

Looking at this photo I’m feeling blessed to be a Montana wedding photographer right now!  I’m very thankful that my first year in Montana has treated me so well.  I was lucky to photograph some amazing weddings and travel to many beautiful locations around Montana and beyond.  Thank you to everyone who has helped me reach this point and I look forward to what this year has in store for us.  www.paulbellinger.com.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER – SHADYA’S PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS HEADSHOTS

Shadya is a smart woman!  She’s getting a jump start on her career while she’s still in college, using a professional headshot to help apply for internships and job interviews.  There is no substitute for a high quality headshot to market yourself in today’s digital age.  Recent studies have shown that quality matters when it comes to photos that people relate to.  People can tell the difference between professional and amateur photos 90% of the time, and are more than twice as likely to interact with a professional photo (click here for the study).  A good headshot can speak volumes in a split second, and in the digital world where decisions are made quickly, what your headshot says about you could make a crucial difference.  Good headshots are hard to come by in a smaller city like Billings Montana, it seems to be a lost art form here, leaving the general public to settle for average or below average headshots that are less impactful for their businesses.  But this is a blessing for people who invest in a high quality professional headshot now, because it will certainly stand out from the crowd in this market.

Here at Paul Bellinger Photography we are committed to the art of portraiture, offering the highest quality portrait and headshot experience in Billings. Contact us to schedule your studio session today (we can usually accommodate last minute and same day bookings with two hours of notice).  www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers:
How is the first portrait lit?  Can you see for yourself?  Deciphering light is a critical skill for photographers and you should be able to replicate almost any lighting techniques you can see.  But you’ll never learn if you don’t try and figure it out for yourself!  In the first photo the main light is obviously coming from camera right based on the highlight on the left side of Shadya’s face.  It must be a big light source because it’s very soft.  There is also a highlight on the right (camera left) side of Shadya’s face, so there is clearly a soft light source camera left as well.  Be sure to check the catchlights in her eyes for and idea of where the lights are placed.  Have it figured out yet?  The main light is a large window out of frame camera right and the second light source is a large 4x8’ reflector out of frame camera left to bounce some of the window light back onto the shadow side of Shadya’s face.  This is my go to lighting technique because it looks good on everyone!  The light is soft, which is flattering for all skin types, and because the light is coming from the side it has a directional quality that provides dimension to the face with very soft shadows.  It’s a very forgiving lighting setup and when I don’t have a window I use a large softbox very close to the subject to replicate the soft window light.  The larger and closer the light source you can create, the softer the light will be, whether you use a window or a studio strobe.

How is the second portrait lit?  You tell me!  There are three lights.  I'll put an iPhone photo of the lighting setup on instagram @PJBellinger.  For more photography tips on the blog click here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MONTANA WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – BRUSH STROKES

Photographers do it with light!  This is downtown Billings Montana at night, photographed through my awesome studio windows.  The lights shining through the old school windows in my studio looked like brush strokes to me.  I’ve had painting on the mind lately, hanging out with painters, shooting paintings in the studio, and painting some new backgrounds.  I made this photo after 2AM as I finished shooting a painting in the studio.  It was a long day, and I was bleeding thanks to running my face into an umbrella pole on a lightstand.  It was a scary cut because I barely missed poking my eye out (my right eye though, which is less important than my left J).  But all of that and my bed calling me, and I still couldn’t pass up this pretty light.  It’s during moments like this that I am so thankful to be doing what I love and am passionate about.  I can never get enough photography.

First and foremost, I am a wedding photographer.  I shoot a lot of things, but they all help me to become a better photographer and I put every ounce of skill that I gain into my weddings.  Everything I shoot is like pre-season for wedding season.  Despite my specialization in wedding photography, I don’t shoot a large number of weddings.  I try to shoot 10 or less each year and the reason is because I give each wedding my full artistic attention and every last bit of effort I have.  I go to great lengths for my wedding clients, sometimes traveling around the world with them, or hiking to the tops of the earth.  There is no wedding too big, too small, or too remote for me.  Each one is special and each one deserves my full creative force, with nothing routine or ordinary about the way I work.  I’ll never be burned out, I’ll never be tired from the wedding I shot the day before (because I don’t shoot more than one wedding a week), my creativity will always be at 100% and I’ll never give anything but my absolute best effort.  That much I can guarantee.  www.paulbellinger.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BILLINGS MONTANA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER – HORIZONTAL HEADSHOTS ARE IN

Leslie and Rebecca rocked their corporate headshots!  I’m so glad they came to me for an upgrade, and chose to go with the ultra-modern horizontal headshot on a black background, which is definitely the hottest trend in headshots.  Most screens are horizontal, or at least have a horizontal viewing option (such as phone), so horizontal photos tend to look better and draw more attention.  A horizontal photo also crops nicely to a square, which is useful for social media, profile photos, and is also growing in popularity.  Here in Billings Montana the horizontal headshot is almost a totally new concept, so it has the added advantage of helping it’s users stand out from the crowd that much more while the rest of Billings catches on.  Using black as a background is both modern and timeless and works to further emphasize the subject rather than the background.  The traditional vertical head and shoulder headshot is not going away, but increasingly people prefer to have a more modern horizontal headshot to go with it.  I offer one of each with my “All Business” corporate headshot package, along with square crops, and black and white versions of each.

Tips for photographers:
The most difficult thing about headshots is that the subject expects a very quick session, usually less than 15 minutes.  With such little shooting time you’re not going to get a lot of great expressions out of the subject so you better be ready to catch them when they happen.  You can’t be fiddling with lights and composition, and you can’t miss focus.  Cropping.  There is an art to cropping someone’s head and it’s not always easy to find the perfect crop.  Sometimes it comes naturally when I’m shooting, and if it doesn’t, I try to find the right crop as soon as possible when the subject comes in.  If I’m struggling I’ll give myself a little breathing room to crop in post, but I prefer not too.  Lighting.  This is a two light corporate headshot technique.  These photos are lit with one 3x4 foot softbox camera left about a foot above head height (meaning the strobe head is about a foot above head height, not the entire softbox) and about 6-12 inches in front of the subject and perpendicular to the subject so they are hit with feathered light from a large source.  You can see the large catchlight in the eye.  The result is very soft light that is flattering for all skin types with some directionality to shape the face.  There is a 4x8 foot white reflector out of frame to camera right to bounce the soft light back onto the shadow side of the face.  This further softens the transition from highlight to shadow, but it doesn’t eliminate the shadows so there is still some dimension in the face (that’s why I prefer to use a reflector rather than another light source, it will automatically adjust to whatever you do with the main light, but will never wash out the shadows).  The background is lit with a second light, a bare strobe with 6 inch reflector about 3 feet above the subject’s head pointed on the background so that none of the light from this light hits the subject at all (you can adjust the placement so that some of this light catches the top of the subjects hair if you want a hair light).  This is a simple, go to lighting technique that is very forgiving and looks good on any subject without the tacky “overlit” look that adding a bunch of strobes can create.